Dance of
the Vampires


This Could Become A World Hit

By Karlheinz Roschitz
October 6, 1997


Byline: Raimund Theater: Ovations for the world premiere of Polanski's "Dance Of The Vampires"

From now on Vienna is a city of vampires. Roman Polanski and his team have made it possible: the world premiere of the musical Dance Of The Vampires at the Raimund Theater was greeted with cheers and standing ovations by an enraptured audience. What is more: Polanski has proved himself once again to be a man of the theater with an extraordinary feeling for young acting talent.

Go to see it and be stunned. And whatever you do, don't forget to take a couple of cloves of garlic with you. For, according to ancient Transylvanian folklore, that is the only thing that will fend off these bloodsuckers, when they sweep through the theater in hordes, causing quiet shudders of horror among the audience.

Roman Polanski has applied his experience to turn his own cult film Dance Of The Vampires, made in 1966/67, inside out for Vienna. Thanks to the librettist Michael Kunze, the musical dramaturgy has a lot of bite. And even if some of the rhymes were probably a lot more witty in English, the mixture of love and pain, humor and irony (and occasionally a bit of profounder meaning) has succeeded here. Proof of this is the fact that a kind of sympathy for the vampire Count von Krolock and his graveyard family horror among the audience.

Jim Steinman

The composer, Jim Steinman has grasped the horror in a skillful manner: he has woven the explosive rock music - increasing in the finale to a hammering disco orgy - with sweetly sentimental melodies. Some numbers sound rather mundane, yet the audience still enjoyed them. There was applause after every scene.

Polanski has found a magnificent stage designer in William Dudley. A seducer who makes it easy for us to descend into the world of the fantastical: the dismal snowy landscape, the dilapidated village pub and above all the huge horror palace with its bizarre halls - gallery of ancestral portraits, library, bathroom, crypt - are a visual pleasure fro the audience. Of the greatest perfection are Sue Blane's delightful vampire haute couture and Hugh Vanstone's lighting design.

However, most importantly, Polanski - the "horror specialist" has a cast which can stand comparison with its model in the film.

Steve Barton is a teeth-baring count who sweeps all common human qualities before him with his vampire nature: greed. In doing so he proves himself to be smart, armed with the charm of the unusual, like his gay son Herbert (NIK plays this role very delicately).

Georg Kranner is a magnificently ludicrous Professor Abronsius and makes one laugh heartily, James Sbano plays a Jewish innkeeper Chagal with refreshing comedy, Torsten Flach the limping, cross-eyed vampires' factotum Koukol, Anne Welte a buxom, voluptuous Rebecca. However the real discovery is the young couple: Cornelia Zenz plays a Sarah of girlish charm with great stage presence and a pretty voice; and Aris Sas plays Alfred, Polanski's favorite film character, a likable but awkward fellow who proves with his boyish charm that the path to (vampire) hell is paved with good intentions.

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